Planning for the Mohawk Valley’s three-day Fourth of July celebration is now under way, but the committee wants the public’s help.
This is the 40th anniversary of the popular event that draws from 20,000 to 30,000 to the area during the holiday weekend.
The lineup this year includes the street dance Friday night, June 29, fireworks Saturday, June 30, with the parade and “Day in the Park” scheduled for Sunday, July 1.
Event chairman Don Clark, along with co-chairs Michael and Patty Clawson, work with a committee of 30 to organize the celebration.
“It’s the best committee I’ve ever served on,” said Michael Clawson, who became a committee member in 2000.
Clark took over the celebration’s organization in 1994 and has steadily grown the event for 18 years.
It’s an expensive endeavor — the fireworks alone cost $13,000. The “Hustle in the Street” offsets part of that cost. Inspired by the popular fireman’s boot fundraiser, volunteers stop traffic along the parade route to collect funds.
“Doc Beaver and his team are great,” Clark said, referring to local chiropractor Dick Beaver. “People will stop and get out their wallets.” The “hustle” raises $6,000 to $7,000 annually.
And while that helps offset the cost of the fireworks, there are other costs associated with hosting a three-day event.
“A lot of people don’t know how this is done, but it’s private donations and business donations that support it,” Patty Clawson said.
Historically it’s been the homeowners and local businesses that support the celebration, but it’s not enough. Aware that the event draws from a far greater geographic area, the committee is reaching out.
“If you love this event, support it,” Patty Clawson said.
The committee members hope residents and merchants in Portola and Quincy will help out and were pleased to receive a contribution recently from Portola Rotary.
“The event draws a lot of people to the area,” Patty Clawson said, “and they camp, buy gas, golf, stay in hotels, shop …”
And the event is a boon to nonprofits as well as businesses. The Day in Park provides an opportunity for organizations to raise funds by selling food, beverages and other services.
“We provide a great opportunity for nonprofits,” Clark said and cited the Elks as an example. They sell beer and hamburgers before the fireworks and the Lady Elks whip up cotton candy. In turn, the Elks direct traffic during the parade.
The event has grown substantially over the past 40 years, and now organizers find themselves at an interesting juncture.
“How big is too big?” Clark asked.
His concerns are twofold: he wants to maintain the celebration’s small-town charm, and he doesn’t want the crowds to become so large that they overwhelm the town. He is aware that some residents choose to leave the area during the celebration.
But for now Clark and the Clawsons are focused on making this year’s 40th anniversary celebration a success and raising the funds to make it happen.Information about the Fourth of July celebration is available at Graea
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